Friday, February 15, 2013

2013 Closer Update: Oakland Athletics

posted by Jon Williams
Oakland Athletics
Closer – Grant Balfour
Next – Sean Doolittle
Sleeper – Ryan Cook
Super-Sleeper – Pat Neshek

Grant Balfour should be considered a lower tier closer. This was made obvious by his inconsistent performance during the 2012 season and the team's willingness to change closers. Balfour gained the closer role twice during the 2012 season and also lost it. He comes into 2013 as the favorite for saves but circumstances are already working against him. The San Francisco Chronicle announced that on February 13th, 2013 Balfour underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He is expected to be out of game action for the next 4-6 weeks of Spring Training which bumps right up against Opening Day. But Balfour and his teammates and organization seem confident he will not need to miss any regular season games though that seems very optimistic.
"I'm not even worried about it, to be honest," reliever Jerry Blevins said. "He's a guy who works hard, and if he's true to form, he'll be back very quickly."
"He'll definitely be back in day one," left-hander Travis Blackley said. "The only thing he'll need is some fine-tuning, finding his release points. And he'll just lock it in, like he always does."
"I feel good about getting it done now," Balfour said. "It will allow me to get ready for Game One of the season. I knew the way I was feeling I wouldn't have been able to pitch through it all season."
Manager Bob Melvin noted that the A's planned to lighten Balfour's spring load anyway, because his workload was heavy last year; this means his arm will get some extra rest. "That's a little underlying positive," Melvin said. Should Balfour not be ready to start the season, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle could close games. 
Without the benefit of Spring Training, Balfour is likely to come into the season with weaker control which almost always leads to problems. We believe that Sean Doolittle will ultimately close for the Athletics but in a short term situation such as this Ryan Cook who closed at times in 2012 is probably the first option.

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